OMMA Behavioral: And Away We Go

My bags are packed for the series of MediaPost West Coast shows we will be managing next week, including OMMA Behavioral in San Francisco on July 30, which I think is the strongest program we have had yet in this series.


Talk about bringing in the big guns and the big thinkers. We have keynotes from a major packaged food brand, Yahoo and Microsoft. And all three are coming armed with big ideas about how BT needs to evolve to its next stage.

For those of you who won't make the left coast iteration of the show, don't miss the action. Our crack crew of reporters will be blogging the high points and points well made at the Mediapost Raw blog on Thursdays. And the participants will be Tweeting with the hashtag #OMMABehave.

Speaking of being involved in the conversation, as is our tradition, we end every OMMA Behavioral show with our signature "Grill the Vendors" panel. Because BT is so technology-driven, and more than a little obtuse to many marketers, we initiated this formula as a platform through which both a critical moderator and an inquisitive audience could pose their pressing questions directly to the vendors.



From their earliest days, the behavioral companies have had to educate the market to a more audience-centric approach to ad targeting as well as to concepts like "segment definitions." While much of that basic work has been accomplished, and BT is now commonplace in the ad network ecosystem, every year brings new confusing layers of complexity.

This time we drill into the "optimizers," the companies that claim to bring even more efficiency either to publishers or to advertisers with a new set of technologies. Do they? To engage the questions we asked one of the best-informed professionals in the space to grab his spatula and warm up the coals. When Josh McFarland, Entrepreneur in Residence, Greylock Partners, was a lead product manager at Google, he had to evaluate and compare many of these same technologies, which is why we asked him to take on this task. Josh of course will have his own agenda of questions, but we always solicit write-in questions as well from the audience at the show and for the readership of Behavioral Insider.

Look over the panel description and the panelists (Rubicon Project, AdMeld, DataXu, Aggregate Knowledge and AudienceScience will be there) and submit to me a question you would like Josh to pose one or more of these folks at the show. Then tune in to the Mediapost Raw blog on Thursday to see if we use it to stoke the fires.

The San Francisco show marks the second anniversary of OMMA Behavioral, which we started at the Yale Club in July 2007. Back then it often was hard to find marketers, let alone brands, to discuss their use of BT. The techniques associated with behavioral tracking still were considered dark arts that advertisers, and even many publishers, preferred to keep in the shadows. As a programmer, getting marketers to step up and talk about case studies has been a constant frustration over the years. Brands don't want to publicize their use of BT generally -- and even marketers resist being the first one out there to crow about results.

Looking over the July 30th agenda, it's clear how much has changed. Our first of three keynote presentations next week will come from the senior manager of digital marketing at Del Monte Foods. Doug Chavez will address head-on an issue that has bedeviled BT for years: its worth as a branding vehicle.

In fact, next week's show is top-heavy with big arguments. Doug is joined by Yahoo's head of display advertising Dave Zinman, who will drill into another key issue for the field, how BT adds both value to advertisers and revenue to the digital space. Dave then will join the following keynote panel for publishers on whether they are still seeing returns on BT in these budget-strapped days.

In a bit of a chilling moment earlier this year, a media buyer for a major agency told me they were expecting and getting behavioral targeting from publishers as a value-add. I would love to hear our publishers on that panel respond to that proposition. And from Microsoft's Atlas Institute, Senior Director Young-Bean Song will bring hard metrics to bear on the argument Doug starts in the morning. Young-Bean tells me he intends to argue that BT risks becoming just another direct-response channel unless it aligns the data it already has with the interests of brand marketers more effectively. His talk will bring the numbers to bear on the problem of unlocking those brand budgets.

And while on the topic of big arguments, I always like to draw readers' attention to this show's iteration of the customary privacy panel. Here again, I welcome your questions to suggest for moderator Wendy Davis' agenda. Wendy helped us refashion my original panel idea for this session into one focused more on the reigning controversy over opt-in/opt-out. Industry representatives argue aggressively that the digital ad ecosystem, and behavioral targeting specifically, would essentially disintegrate if it relied on users opting into online ad tracking. Some of our panelists are poised to come at this question from a more nuanced perspective. I expect we will hear a discussion that explores the way in which opt-in/opt-out will not be either/or but work in a more subtle and tiered way.

For those of you who won't be with us in San Francisco, remember there are multiple ways to be a part of the show and track the big and little arguments we plan to engage. Send your suggestions for questions to me or leave them in the comments section below. One way or another, your presence at the show can be felt.

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